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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The pensions commissioner.

Baroness Noakes: I beg your pardon. I meant the new pensions commissioner—the position being taken up by Mr Adair Turner. How transparent will the advice given to Ministers be? How is that position independent, given that Mr Adair Turner appears to be well entrenched, at least in Number 10?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Baroness the statistics that she wants about the 60:40 per cent or 40:60 per cent point. I cannot say what the situation will be in 10 years' time. That will depend on what happens with the take-up of stakeholders, with the pension credit and the like. I emphasise that that is the direction in which we wish and seek to move .

I resent being told that I am complacent about DB schemes. I said—I am sorry that the noble Baroness did not hear me—that if DC schemes attracted as much investment as DB schemes, the return over time for the person in the funded scheme should be broadly the same. I complained that employers too often took the opportunity to move from DB to DC schemes, not just to reduce risk but to cut contributions by more than half. If that is being complacent, the noble Baroness and I attach rather different meanings to the word.

The noble Baroness talked about the insurance commissioner. I am not sure whether she was talking about the new pensions regulator or the new commission that will be headed, possibly, by Mr Adair Turner, the name that the noble Baroness mentioned. It will be independent, in the sense that it will seek to embrace sections of the industry, including—I hope—the trade union movement. It will make recommendations to the Secretary of State about the adequacy, reach and coverage of voluntary provision. In the light of that information, it is open to the Secretary of State, if he is not satisfied—and to Parliament—to return to the issue of compulsion, raised from the Liberal Democrat Benches.

Transport Investment Plan

6.17 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement that has been made in another place by the Secretary of State for Transport. The Statement is as follows:

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    "Measures to tackle congestion are beginning to make an impact. Bus use nationally has begun to grow after years of decline and stagnation. Light rail use has grown by a third over the past two years. The number of rail passengers has increased by nearly a quarter since 1997.

    "We need to do more. All this will only be possible because of the commitment to sustained investment year-on-year, and I shall be announcing further measures next year. The House will also wish to know that there has been a 15 per cent reduction in deaths and serious accidents on the roads. And for children, there has been a 27 per cent reduction, which is a tribute to all those who have done so much to improve road safety.

    "On the railways, public expenditure is now estimated to be 33 billion compared to 29 billion 18 months ago. We are committed to sustaining this investment as it is essential to improve both reliability and safety. But it is also essential that the industry gets a grip of major projects. The public rightly expect us to ensure that their money is well spent and that there is rigorous control of costs.

    "Spending in the next few years will rise from 2.1 billion in 2001–02 to 4.3 billion in 2005–06, which, although 312 million less for the Strategic Rail Authority over the coming three years than was forecast earlier this year, is double what was being spent at the start of the plan. This investment will only deliver results if costs in the industry are brought under control. That is why Richard Bowker, the Chairman of the SRA, is quite right to insist that the railways industry gets a proper grip on its costs—something that was conspicuously absent in the past.

    "As I have said, the report shows that the railways are carrying nearly a quarter more people than 5 years ago. But we will only sustain that increase in use if we can show that the service is better and, crucially, more reliable. That needs more investment, but also better management of the existing network, which is what the SRA is providing. That is why the SRA is carrying out a review to make sure that the best use is made of existing railway capacity, that projects are more tightly managed and that costs are driven down.

    "As the report shows, there is now significant public investment going into the West Coast Main Line which will allow greater reliability. But only because the SRA and the industry showed its determination to exercise rigorous control of the project and its costs.

    "Progress is being made elsewhere too. There has been sustained investment year on year—over 1 billion worth of new rolling stock has been introduced since April 2001 with a further 2,100 vehicles on order. Ninety per cent of the first phase of the new Channel Tunnel rail link is now complete—the first major new rail line for over 100 years. There has been the installation of a new safety system—the train protection warning system—on around 70 per cent of the track and around 90 per cent of the passenger fleet. The

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    power supply for London commuter trains has been upgraded. There has been more maintenance and more renewals.

    "There has been investment, yes. But, just as elsewhere, with investment must come reform. Every one of us knows that standards on our railways can be improved. This report shows that we are prepared to spend more, but in return the railway industry has to do far more to drive up standards and reliability. Our priority is to deliver safe and reliable transport that enables people and goods to move around the country as easily and efficiently as possible.

    "This plan sets out the investment to achieve that over a 10-year period. There are no quick fixes or easy solutions. Sustained investment is needed year on year and over many decades. We are committed to the long haul, to that sustained investment and improvements in services essential to our continued economic and social prosperity".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

6.24 p.m.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. The report is called the "progress report". I have had a brief look at it and I have to say that perhaps it should be called the "lack of progress report". It represents the final nail in the coffin of John Prescott's 10-year transport plan. That plan is falling apart. Congestion is increasing; one in five trains is delayed; the Tube is in chaos and nationally bus use is falling. Even the Labour-dominated Transport Select Committee has condemned the plan as failing to provide a vision for a more equitable, safer and efficient transport system.

A recent survey comparing us with Europe noted that the average British worker spends twice as long travelling to work in the morning as even his Italian counterpart. In the South East, we are faced with rail fare rises of up to 10 per cent. There will also be fewer trains. The excuse made by the Government and the Secretary of State is that having fewer trains might be more reliable. At the moment, we have a thoroughly illogical system. How can we possibly have a situation where Connex is fined 4.5 million one week for delays, and the following week is handed back 58 million because it is short of cash? That is extraordinary.

I hope that the Government will persuade the Strategic Rail Authority to look at the terms on which the train operating companies have their licences renewed because the basis of making the licences short term is obviously having a major effect on the plans of those companies. Train operating companies have been a successful part of rail privatisation. The noble Lord knows—indeed, the Statement says—that passenger use has increased by 25 per cent since 1997.

Efforts to cut congestion on the roads have failed miserably. The Government cancelled a large part of the road improvement plan that they inherited, with the result that we have chaos in transport. We know

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that train services could be cut by up to one-fifth next year and that train operating companies have been told to produce plans to run railways on 20 per cent less taxpayer subsidy. Richard Bowker, the Chairman of the SRA, has warned that the 33 billion promised over 10 years is running out and that expansion projects will have to be put on hold. He has admitted that many projects will have to be scaled back.

To cap it all, the Government have announced an airports policy which will have to go back to square one. They lost a case in the High Court, in which the judge decided that it would be wrong to exclude Gatwick from the airport expansion consultation.

Costs in the rail network have soared. Indeed, more money is being pumped into the industry now than under British Rail, but in many areas performance has deteriorated.

The Government promised that they would tackle congestion and improve journey times for motorists. In fact, statistics show that car use has increased and that congestion has worsened. What is more, congestion has risen at a substantially higher rate—probably 10 times higher—than the rise in employment in this country. Highways Agency figures show that not one inch of new bypass was built anywhere in 2001. The Government cancelled bypass programmes when they came into power.

Turning to London Underground, the PPP has still not started this month and the Secretary of State has said that the transfer of London Underground to Transport for London could be delayed by many months.

The Minister's department comes up with surprising excuses. Today, I noticed that a spokesman cited the slow take-up by local authorities of the option of introducing congestion charges as one of the reasons for the continuing jams on major routes. I find that extraordinary. Perhaps the noble Lord will confirm that that is the department's policy. The introduction of congestion charges might affect congestion in cities, but the idea that it affects major routes is rather bizarre.

The Statement reads:

    "economic growth over the next 10 years is now projected to be higher than anticipated".

I ask: anticipated from when? Perhaps the Minister could explain how that forecast came about.

The Government have made many promises, including another promise of funding for 10 years. However, we know that that is a plan, not a commitment. The dead hand of the Treasury hangs over that and it has no such thing as a 10-year commitment. It has only a short, two or three-year commitment.

I said that the report indicated a lack of progress, but it shows one thing. I commend the Secretary of State for having faced the reality of the congestion in this country and the report finally buries the 10-year

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plan. It is an admission that the department and the Secretary of State, Mr Darling, have finally joined the real world.

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